Mahogany vs Maple Guitars: What’s the Difference?

Mahogany and maple are two of the most common wood types used on both acoustic and electric guitars which help to shape their tone, but what’s the difference between them? In this article, I’ll compare the use of mahogany and maple as a guitar wood so you can understand all the differences between them.

The Quick Answer

Mahogany guitars sound warmer and fuller compared to maple guitars which sound brighter and clearer. Mahogany is a dark wood with a fairly flat EQ and slight mid-range hump, whereas maple is a lighter wood with more treble emphasis and a tighter low-end.

Sounds bright and focusedSounds warm and smooth
Treble emphasis with tight low-endFlat EQ with slight mid-range hump
Light woodDark wood
Used on the back, sides and necks of acoustic guitarsUsed on the back, sides, necks and tops of acoustic guitars
Used on the neck, fretboards and tops of electric guitarsUsed on the body and necks of electric guitars
Maple vs mahogany on electric and acoustic guitars

Mahogany on a Guitar

Mahogany is a very popular wood on both acoustic and electric guitars. On acoustic guitars, you’ll typically find it on the back, sides and neck, but it can also be used as a top wood. On electric guitars, you’ll usually see mahogany used on the body and the neck of the guitar.

In terms of its tonal characteristics, mahogany has a fairly flat EQ with a slightly mid-range bump. This means that it sounds very full and quite warm, making it very suitable for rhythm players who want to avoid having a brighter tone.

In the electric guitar world you’ll see mahogany being used most popularly on the Gibson Les Paul which is known for it’s warm and full tone with plenty of mid-range emphasis. This gives it a thick and beefy tone which is popular in rock and metal.

On an acoustic guitar, mahogany is primarily used for light strumming and fingerpicking. I t’s warm and smooth tone suits a variety of music styles and it’s a popular choice amongst rhythm players.

In terms of its appearance, mahogany is a dark wood with a moderate grain. It’s not the most striking tone wood you can find, but it still has a bit of character.

Maple on a Guitar

Maple is a popular choice on acoustic and electric guitars. On acoustic guitars, maple is commonly used on the back, sides and neck of the guitar and rarely on the top. On electric guitars, maple necks and fretboards are widely used, you’ll also find it being used as a cap/ top on the body quite frequently.

With regards to the tone, maple has a tight and focused sound due to the lack of emphasis on the bass frequencies. This, paired with it’s treble emphasis, gives it a bright and crisp tone. The mids are not scooped, so you still get a decent amount of depth but it doesn’t sound as full as some other tone woods.

Maple is a staple on the necks of most Fender electric guitars which helps contribute to their bright and tight tones. You’ll also see maple being used as a top wood on the body of a Gibson Les Paul which helps to give it a bit more bite and brightness. It’s rarely used on the whole of the body partly due to it being so heavy.

Maple makes a great tone wood on an acoustic guitar for strumming. For fingerpicking, it’s use is often debated. Some players love the bright and focused tone, whereas others can find it a bit dry for fingerstyle playing.

There are a few types of maple which are used for different situations. All the types are a light color, but the grain varies:

  • Hard rock maple
  • Flame maple
  • Quilted maple
  • Birdseye maple

Flame, quilted and birdseye maple have a very striking grain which makes them a popular choice for both acoustic guitars and as a top wood on electric guitar.

Tone Difference

Maple sounds much brighter and more focused due to it’s treble-emphasis compared to mahogany on a guitar. Mahogany guitars have a flatter EQ which means they sound warmer and more balanced. Mahogany also has a mid-range hump which gives it a fuller tone.

EQ Balance of Maple and Mahogany

On acoustic guitars, maple is often favoured for heavy strumming, whilst mahogany is often selected for fingerpicking due to its warmer and smoother tone.

On electric guitars, you’ll often find maple being used on characteristically “bright” guitars such as the Fender Strat and Tele. Whereas mahogany is often used on guitars which have more warmth and depth. You’ll also see mahogany and maple being paired on electric guitars. For example, the Gibson Les Paul has a mahogany neck and body but a maple cap. The mahogany gives it a full and warm tone but the maple cap helps to add some clarity and brightness.

Whenever we’re discussing tone, it’s really best to let you hear the differences rather than just read about it. Here are some YouTube videos which compare the use of mahogany and maple on a guitar.

Example #1 Acoustic Guitars

Here you can listen to a guitar with a mahogany back, sides and top, and a guitar with maple back and sides and a spruce top being compared (a rosewood is also thrown in as a bonus!).

You will be able to notice that the mahogany acoustic guitar sounds warmer and fuller in comparison to the maple/ spruce acoustic guitar. The maple/ spruce combination sounds a bit clearer and more articulate.

Example #2 Electric Guitar Necks

Here you can listen for the difference between maple and mahogany as a neck wood on the same electric guitar. There are three combinations being compared here:

  • Maple neck and fretboard
  • Maple neck and rosewood fretboard
  • Mahogany neck and rosewood fretboard

You can definitely hear that the maple necks sound brighter and thinner compared to the mahogany neck. The difference is of course more obvious when the maple neck is also paired with a maple fretboard. The use a rosewood on the fretboard of the maple neck helps to warm it up slightly.

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Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

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